Swiss literary giant, Jacques Chessex, dies in Yverdon library


Jacques Chessex (photo: ©2009 Ellen Wallace)

Yverdon, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – A man widely considered to be one of Switzerland’s greatest writers, the unassuming Jacques Chessex who was the first non-French winner of the prestigious Goncourt literary prize, died Friday night in Yverdon just after a public presentation in the town’s library, surrounded by the books that were his great love. He collapsed when his heart gave out and died shortly afterwards. Chessex, age 75, was the author of 31 books, most of them slim but incisive novels famous for their eloquent language. They often described the world around him, in French-speaking Switzerland, but captured the threads of human relations that run deeper than local stories: “Explorer of the human soul in all its complexity,” were the words Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz used to describe him.

Chessex became the first non-French winner of the prestigious Goncourt literary prize in 1973, for his novel The Ogre. In 2008 A Jew Must Die (Un juif pour l’exemple) his tale of the 1942 murder of a Jewish cow merchant in his hometown of Payerne, fiction based on a real drama, caused a stir in Switzerland.

He was also a prolific painter. His books are published by Grasset.

Entry on Chessex in